UN Peacekeeping Operations and Host States’ Gender Relations: Exploring the Consequences

Project Leader Louise Olsson, Ph.D. Candidate

Project Period

July 2000 – April 2007

Project Description

Peace operations are mainly focused on establishing security and to assist the building of institutions to handle conflict. On the surface, this does not appear to affect internal power relationships, particularly not between local men and women, that is, gender power relations. The norm that operations should not meddle in the private affairs of a state has been, and to some extent remains, deep-seated. However, research on international interventions, and more particularly peace operations, have observed that post-Cold War operations, particularly those with substantial enforcement and peacebuilding assignments, have more directly come to affect internal power dynamics in spite of official intention.

Previous research claims that “gender”, often mistakenly understood as “women”, has been an area particularly fraught with discrepancy between intention and reality. Research is underdeveloped but empirically, numerous examples display effects for gender power relations as a result of regular, by intention “unmeddling”, policy implementation. This project it is methodologically and theoretically based in mainstream research, while utilizing suggestions from feminist research, asking: How do peace operations affect gender power relations?

The purpose of the project is twofold. It seeks to a) develop the concept of gender power relations; b) systematically explore consequences of peace operation factors. The aim is to provide blocks for theory building. To accomplish this, suggestions drawn from related research are organized into an analytical framework, then applied to an empirical material - peace operations in Timor-Leste 1999-2006. Although the purpose is to contribute to constructing research theory, the policy origin of the research puzzle inevitably places the study in the context of existing UN norm-systems and policies. The project will be completed by April 2007.


“The Namibian Peace Operation in a Gender Context” in Dyan Mazurana, Angela Raven-Roberts, and Jane Parpart (Eds.) Gender, Conflict, and Peacekeeping. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2005.

Guest Editor, Security Dialogue - Special Issue on Gender and Security 35(4), Lene Hansen & Louise Olsson. London: SAGE Publications, 2004.

Co-editor, Gender Aspects of Conflict Interventions: Intended and Unintended Consequences. Case Studies on the United Nations Mission in Eritrea/Ethiopia (UNMEE), the NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR) and the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) Final Report to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo. Louise Olsson, Inger Skjelsbæk, Elise F. Barth and Karen Hostens. Oslo: PRIO, 2004.

Women and International Peacekeeping. Olsson, Louise and Torunn L. Tryggestad [Eds.] London & Portland: Frank Cass Publishers, 2001

Other Project Activities

Olsson attended the International Studies Association conference in San Diego where she presented the paper "Equal Peace? Consequences of Peace Operations for Host State’s Gender Relations", in March 2006.

Field work in East Timor was conducted in February- March 2006.

Main Financial Support

Mainly fuded by the department, but also by the Swedish Research Council

Useful Links

Vetenskapsrådet Swedish Research Council